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Diary

Peter Wollen: In the Tunnel, 28 April 1994

... Our cosmopolitan party converged on Arras from east, north, south and west, to be gathered together and loaded onto a tourist bus and driven to the Channel Tunnel reception centre at Sangatte, near Calais. There things took an unexpected turn. We were issued with special boots, hard hats, goggle-like glasses and – most alarmingly – yellow oilskins ...

Cheerfully Chopping up the World

Michael Wood: Film theory, 2 July 1998

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium 
by Gilberto Perez.
Johns Hopkins, 466 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 8018 5673 6
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On the History of Film Style 
by David Bordwell.
Harvard, 322 pp., £39.95, February 1998, 0 674 63428 4
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Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine 
by D.N. Rodowick.
Duke, 260 pp., £46.95, October 1997, 0 8223 1962 4
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The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema 
by Jean Mitry, translated by Christopher King.
Athlone, 405 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 485 30084 2
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Signs and Meaning in the Cinema 
by Peter Wollen.
BFI, 188 pp., £40, May 1998, 0 85170 646 0
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... to stay and look. ‘Why do you think we have suddenly become so interested in early cinema?’ Peter Wollen asks at the end of the new edition of his Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. ‘It’s more than archaeology. It is to regain a sense of cinema as potential, not yet frozen into the world spectacle. It is to imagine a renaissance.’ Bordwell, I ...

Mad Monk

Jenny Diski: Not going to the movies, 6 February 2003

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 963 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 316 85905 2
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Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Anthony Lane.
Picador, 752 pp., £15.99, November 2002, 0 330 49182 2
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Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film 
by Peter Wollen.
Verso, 314 pp., £13, December 2002, 1 85984 391 3
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... didn’t), I’d have bothered to stop for a fight. In Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film, Peter Wollen makes no mention of Titanic, and one would rather hesitate to mention it to him. He writes as an academic, which does not mean he loves film any less than Thomson, but does mean that his love isn’t as evident. His essays sometimes cover the ...

At The Whitechapel

Peter Campbell: Gerhard Richter, 8 January 2004

... Gudrun Ensslin – the images from which the paintings in the series October 18, 1977 were made (Peter Wollen wrote about them in the LRB of 5 April 2001). Some of the images are out of focus; a few have had grids drawn over them or been extended: indications that they are the source for a painting on canvas. Also at the Whitechapel, mostly hung away ...

Unembraceable

Peter Wollen, 19 October 1995

Sex and Suits 
by Anne Hollander.
Knopf, 212 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 43096 2
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... My first thoughts, in connection with suits, are of Lucky Lucan, Joseph Beuys and the Thin White Duke, at the head of an imaginary horde of accountants, dandies, clubland heroes, zoot-suiters and funeral directors. It has taken me some time to realise that the question of suits is indeed a crucial question, not only about fashion but about sexual identity, national culture and art history ...

The Same Old Solotaire

Peter Wollen, 4 July 1996

‘Salome’ and ‘Under the Hill’ 
by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Creation, 123 pp., £7.95, April 1996, 1 871592 12 7
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Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque 
by Chris Snodgrass.
Oxford, 338 pp., £35, August 1995, 0 19 509062 4
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... Yeats had no doubt how and when the fatal blow was struck. In his memoirs, he noted that ‘the condemnation of Wilde had brought ruin upon a whole movement in art and letters.’ Yeats himself was fortunate that the Celtic Revival, which ran in close tandem with Decadence, had special resources of its own. Two of the great iconic victims of the social purity movement, the repressive engine of Late Victorianism, were themselves Irish – Parnell and Wilde – and Yeats was able to incorporate their tragedies into his heroic narrative of Irish nationalism ...

Hitting the buffers

Peter Wollen, 8 September 1994

Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 318 pp., £27.50, April 1994, 0 19 811746 9
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... In the summer of 1913, Jacques Copeau, the French stage pioneer, who had just founded his Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris, wrote to Duncan Grant asking him to prepare the costumes and design for an innovative production of Twelfth Night. Grant completed the commission, using fabrics from the Omega Workshop for the costumes, and went over to Paris the following February to attend rehearsals and install his work ...

Scaling Up

Peter Wollen: At Tate Modern, 20 July 2000

... The first breakthrough in the transformation of the South Bank of the Thames came in 1951 with the Festival of Britain, which established this stretch of riverside as a public space, and brought in its aftermath the Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre and, on the other side of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Waterloo Bridge, the new National Theatre. The next came in 1977, with the foundation of the Coin Street Action Group when, reacting against a decline in public housing and the proliferation of office blocks, the inhabitants of the area to the east of the South Bank Centre began to organise to defend their homes ...

Beyond Zero

Peter Wollen: Kazimir Malevich, 1 April 2004

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 
edited by Matthew Drutt.
Guggenheim, 296 pp., $65, June 2003, 0 89207 265 2
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... Kazimir Malevich was the most enigmatic and the most provocative painter of the early Soviet period. He can be seen as a pioneer of abstraction and of the minimalist works produced many years later by such artists as Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Yves Klein. Or he can be regarded as a folk artist, or as a visionary who proposed to launch his Suprematist constructions and artworks into outer space, where they would circle the earth as satellites ...

The Last Hundred Days

Peter Wollen: Kassel’s Mega-Exhibition, 3 October 2002

Documenta 11 
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... Late in August I visited Documenta 11, the most recent version of the mega-exhibition that has been held in the German city of Kassel since 1955, when Arnold Bode, a professor of art at the Kassel Academy, decided to organise an international art show. It achieved such success that it soon became a crucial element of Kassel’s character as a city, once the arms industry had gone ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 October 1997

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... few of the authors any favours at all. Mercifully, there is one essay here, by one of the editors, Peter Wollen, which is useful in helping you get the connection between Warhol’s commercial drawings and his big silkscreens, between the fashion pages and The Factory, and the role he came to assume there as Svengali-producer and artist-voyeur. Clement ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... Diaghilev ballet’. The influence of the Ballets Russes went much deeper than décor, however. As Peter Jacobs writes, it supplied a model of ‘a pagan liberty and a savage beauty, combined with a stylised severity or formal purity’, a liberty and a beauty embodied, one might add, in Nijinsky’s legs, to gaze on which Keynes briefly abandoned his Treatise ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch, 17 February 2000

The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... a group of artists whose work Greenberg summarily dismissed as kitsch – among them, Grant Wood, Peter Blume and Andrew Wyeth – should be seen in a line of descent from Le Douanier Rousseau and Chirico, artists Greenberg at least took seriously. Menton was struck by the sharp focus of Magic Realist paintings, their creation of a toylike world which strikes ...

Thatcher’s Artists

Peter Wollen, 30 October 1997

Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... the properties of various drugs. Not only do they turn out to be textual paintings, cousin to Peter Davies’s painted list of the top one hundred all-time hit paintings: they effect a stealthy return to Hirst’s pre-occupation with the body and with disease and death. Keith Coventry’s white on white tribute to Malevich conceals portraits, painted in ...

Death (and Life) of the Author

Peter Wollen: Kathy Acker, 5 February 1998

... Writing about Goya’s Black Paintings in Art After Modernism , a collection of essays published in 1984 by the New Museum in downtown New York, Kathy Acker wrote: ‘The only reaction against an unbearable society is equally unbearable nonsense.’ She once said she didn’t expect anyone to read any of her books all the way through from beginning to end: ‘even in Empire of the Senseless , which is the most narrative book, you could read pretty much anywhere ...

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